by Doug


Internet Marketing

Jeremy Clarkson is a HiPPO but he knows all about testing

With the new series of Top Gear having started in the UK, we can say that the nation’s (least) favourite (delete according to your taste) motoring journalist is actually a classic HiPPO (Highest Paid Persons Opinion – your boss’s boss’s boss). On that bombshell we can also say that he’s absolutely right about testing. Amazed? I will explain. First, read this article penned by Clarkson back in 2010:

Okay, you’re back and wondering ‘what the heck?’. So we know Clarkson as a self confessed oaf equipped with fingers of butter and a propensity to shout POWERRR a lot whilst sliding supercars around a racetrack. He claims to have no appreciation for technical subtleties and attempts to fix all broken things using only a hammer. He has all the hallmarks of an orang-utan but actually has simple technical requirements that are seldom addressed by adding extra layers of complexity – Clarkson, like all HiPPOs prefers and appreciates the simpler solution. Clarkson, like all HiPPOs prefers simplicty. If, as #measure professionals (digital analytics professionals), we focussed more on delivering only what is required and less on what isn’t then our HiPPO-happiness-score would climb like a rocket and our optimisation efforts would improve in as a result.

Take a classic optimisation test as an example: a poor or non-existent test specification with a loose hypothesis based around a combination of branding, imagery, mobile, bounce rate and revenue. Clarkson describes the Armageddon plot as:

The plot is more riddled with holes than a termite mound.

This applies equally to our loose test scenario as well as a large number of mediocre CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) projects. The lack of specificity around causality and expected results of the test renders the test fundamentally flawed before we start. How does Clarkson suggest we approach the problem?

Simple. I wish car companies would behave a bit more like Quentin Tarantino and a bit less like Michael Bay, the slap-happy madman who foisted Armageddon on the cinema-going public.

So, fewer explosions means fewer test variables. Less CGI = more honest, simple CRO. Better attention to detail means really thinking about what users want on your site/app. Lose the fixation with wild, complex, cross site MVTs (Multi Variate Tests) and think C L E A R L Y.

Take a moment to reflect on exactly what you’re optimising. Does it even need a test? Can you make a change and measure the effects? How much design and development investment do you need to make a website better? Ask your users what they want – not what you think they want:

The trouble is that, like Bay, car companies are obsessed with the big-money special effects. They think that what we want are automatic windscreen wipers…

Change ‘car companies’ in the quote above to CRO professionals. Change ‘automatic windscreen wipers’ to responsive web design and you’ll see the similarities. If your web/marketing/optimisation team struggle to detach from the super complex is best mindset, if they fail to embrace simpler, leaner, faster tests focussed on learning rather than conversion rates, tell them to consider this:

Well, I urge them all to sit down one afternoon and watch the Hurt Locker. Made for a pound. Won six Oscars. Everyone loves it to bits.

We just launched a series tests of various types in under 5 days with no huge effort or expense. Our approach to thought processes, business processes, methodology and (importantly) the results will be discussed in a soon-to-be-published blog post.

This could be our Oscar winner – we’ll see.

Watch this space as well as Tarantino movies 😉

More on this very soon!


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